North Korea: Beyond the cold war theatrics, is there really a nuclear threat to US?
21st Century Wire
The recent show of force by the United States marks one of the lowest points in modern diplomacy, but beyond the geopolitical threatrics it turns out that very little is actually known about the North Korean threat.
North Korea’s recent series of weekly verbal provocations towards Seoul and their ally the US – should be taken seriously in diplomatic terms, but is Pyongyang’s bark worse than its bite?
Instead of taking the high road of international diplomacy, Obama’s war hawks chose a more neoconservative approach by baiting the North with a nuclear-capable B-2 Stealth flyover of the country by the US, by F22 aerial exercises and a US Navy Destroyer parked off the South Korean peninsula this week. Further fanning the flames, China also mobilised some of its own troops and military assets along the North Korean border.
Dear Leader: N.Korean propaganda is bolstered by Washington DC’s own validation of it.
The regime in Pyongyang is clearly one on the brink of collapse. The reality is that the crypto-Marxist North Korean nation is one of the planet’s most marginalized states, not only on a diplomatic level, but also on an economically too – as evidenced by the state’s extreme internal propaganda designed to reinforce the state’s unworldly narrative for its own population.
Knowing full well that North Korea is already being strangled economically – effectively being starved by blanket UN and other sanctions, is it such a wise move for the US to poke them further?
As the young Kim Jung-un carries on his late father’s tradition of surreal state-run propaganda campaigns, so does the United States carry on with its own, slightly more sophisticated brand of propaganda as well. For the average American, their general grasp of geopolitical risk and strategy is still on the level of the film Team America, and Washington knows this, and has regularly attempts to pass off shallow intelligence as definitive, and building its foreign policy on top of this.
Still, amongst all the public war chatter back and forth between the US, South Korea and North Korea, one serious question is being mostly ignored – with regards to Pyongyang, what is exactly real, and what is fiction? If we ask this question, then the next most logical question naturally follows: to what degree is Washington DC inflating the threat from North Korea, and why?
The US ‘War Economy’
One can also be argued that there a very powerful vested interests in the US corporate structure who have and will continue to benefit from a heated arms build-up, and will certainly use the North Korea threat as a justification to push forward in spending, especially in light Washington’s new-found austerity culture ushered in through recent budget sequestrations. America’s new pivot towards Asia provides the catch-all policy net, while the two-way propaganda duel between the two countries provides the fear needed to justify a new military build up in the region.
In recent weeks and months, experts in Washington and the UN have been at pains to clarify and actually prove the full scope and ability of the North Korean nuclear threat, which so far are mostly theatre and little substance.
Pyongyang’s nuclear tests
Beyond all the flamboyant rhetoric from the succession of Dear Leaders, and beyond all of their spectacular military parades, there is very little proof that North Korea is advanced in its military prowess and nuclear abilities than many are led to fear in the United States and Western Europe. Their recent nuclear test on February 19th of this year was a perfect example of this.
US officials have speculated that North Korea has upgraded its nuclear capabilities from plutonium, to much more effective enriched uranium ‘HEU’ type warhead.
When no such evidence, or tell-tale physical data, was picked up from North Korea’s recent test – including readings taken from Japanese aircraft and multiple monitoring stations in South Korea, it prompted US officials to claim that the North Koreans merely “went to some length to try to contain releases. One possible reason to try to contain releases is secrecy, so we don’t know very much about their nuclear testing.”
In a recent report published in the Washington Post this week, a former senior Obama administration official admitted there is no evidence of any such advancement, saying, “We’re worried about it, but we haven’t seen it”.
These type of statements leaked into the media are seemingly always done under anonymity, perhaps because those people issuing them are in fear in of losing their jobs because their intelligence assessment does not jibe with US foreign policy rhetoric, nor does it promote the need for an expensive arms race.
Likewise, following North Korea’s previous test in 2009, US officials were on record as saying that unfortunately, the blast ‘left no detectable traces’.
Not convinced that North Korea’s capabilities are anything less than the most advanced, one U.S. official with access to the classified data on the tests derides the lack of evidence, claiming that: “Still, it would not be surprising for North Korea to take extra steps to prevent outsiders from gaining insights into its nuclear capability”.
As is the case with Iran, politicians in Washington and their corporate media partners have sought to validate the nuclear threat in such a way that suggests a pre-emptive strike may be necessary in order to save lives. Although we are used to hearing this every day in the US and Europe, that concept of a preemptive strike has been used as far back as Japan, and most recently in the context of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq and now again in Syria.
Constantly, we see US officials sculpting the narrative in order to fit into a preconceived conclusion. Very sophisticated propaganda indeed.
Attaching North Korea to Iran
The big danger with Washington and its allies’ polarising approach to foreign policy today is that it is eerily remnant of the type of power-politics that led the world into two previous world wars.
In order to joint North Korea and Iran at the hip, links are needed, and speculation is then used in order to build the type of theoretical case that one often sees emanating from the mouths of both hosts and guests on networks such as FOX News, CNN and the BBC, which is then taken on by the general populace as a genuine threat, skillfully articulated by an official source. Although less blunt than Kim Jung-un’s style of state-run propaganda, it’s just as effective in the end.
Iran has been attached to North Korea through Washington DC’s ‘Axis of Evil’ concept, after pursuing its own nuclear power program.
Still, there is no actual hard evidence to show that North Korea and Iran are sharing uranium enrichment technology, which is of course countered by US officials by claiming that, ‘the sharing of enrichment know-how would be harder to spot than missile know-how’, and also admitting, “ and adding, “They cooperate in many areas, especially missiles. Why it hasn’t yet extended to the nuclear program is frankly a mystery.”
Again with Syria, the North Koreans are thought to have signed a technology exchange agreement with Damascus over a decade ago, which U.S. officials ‘think’ led to the construction of a secret reactor near Deir al-Zour which the Israelis bombed in 2007. Did this facility have anything to do with nuclear weapons? We’ll never know for sure, and neither will the intelligence community based on the ambiguous comments by US officials.
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